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Gender Bias in Health Concerns in India

In recent years the Govt of India has launched the National Rural Health Mission aimed at correcting rural inequities in the matter of health. It seeks to integrate health with those essential inputs in health namely sanitation, hygiene, safe drinking water and nutrition. Most of the schemes and programmes initiated by Govt look good but they usually fail at the implementation level. The infrastructure devised again for rural health delivery has little to find fault with but the primary health centres and sub-centres are crumbling. The poor implementation haunts practically all our well-intentioned plans and programmes for the welfare of the people.

NRHM proposes to empower local communities in the matter of public health; specific health plans are sought to be drawn up for each village by special health committees within the panchayats.However panchayati raj which are supposed to be epitomes of grass-roots democracy are notorious for stifling of democratic values. Irrespective of caste and community there is universal discrimination against women. In the circumstances the social participation and empowerment as given in NRHM is bound to be in favour of those who are already empowered to the further detriment of the already marginalized.

Women from infant stage to their old age get an unfair deal in matters of health. They are conditioned through generations to place themselves last within the family itself; though they put in the most labour without any financial gain. As such their health concerns also get a very low priority. Women themselves bear in silence pain and discomfort for long periods of time without seeking relief.

The sex-ration in India speaks volumes about the importance given to women in this country. Women are discriminated when it comes to the treatment of diseases and medical problems. If a man and a woman have the same problem requiring expensive treatment, it is invariably the man who gets the first attention, often the only one to get the attention. All the possible treatments are usually explored for the men but for the women the situation is entirely different. It is not just the poor who for want of resources and with the inherent preference for a boy are guilty of bias. Even in well-do families parents tend to spend more on the health of the boys than the girls. It is the attitude which is responsible for ignoring the health of the women in India.

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